As anachronic as a formal letter may appear in this era of rapid and instant communications, the cover letter remains a key component of your self-marketing package. Although not all employers require one, you should try your hand at it before you actually need to draft and submit one officially. It may take a little more time than you expect. If you don’t want your application to be rejected based on the quality of your cover letter, keep in mind the purpose of your cover letter and the pitfalls you should avoid in it.
What’s the purpose of your cover letter?
Your cover letter gives the recruiter a clear idea of how your current qualifications make you the perfect candidate for the job in the present, and of what you’ll bring to the table in the future if you are hired. It is not all about you, but rather about your future contribution to the organization and its goals.
What you should never do in a cover letter:
- Don't just read the posting once.
Read it several times and use a highlighter or a word cloud generator to identify the keywords you need to include in your letter.
Tip: Many jobs require attention to detail and strong written communication skills. Your cover letter is the perfect opportunity to show that you really understand what the job is about.
- Don't just address your letter to “Dear Hiring Manager” (when possible).
Try to find out who would be your immediate supervisor and address your cover letter to them personally. There are often clues in the posting or on the employer’s website.
Tip: In a pile of applications, a cover letter with the recognizable name of an actual recruiter will stand out. Going the extra mile to make your letter more personal shows that you care.
- Don't simply mention that you came across the posting on LinkedIn or something.
Start by stating why you want to work for this team or organization specifically. Express your enthusiasm early and reiterate your interest for the position in the ending paragraph.
Tip: Your “reader” (the employer) wants to feel wanted for a genuine reason. Don’t simply quote the employer’s mission statement. Research the organization and be authentic.
- Don't summarize your past accomplishments like in a biography.
The recruiter has read your resumé. Don’t bore them with the same content. Focus on what you can do for them in the light of the responsibilities listed on the posting.
Tip: Use the posting as your guide. Less is more.
- Don't forego the proofreading stage.
If you leave typos and other mistakes in your cover letter, you’re giving recruiters the perfect excuse to discard your application altogether. The care you put in your cover letter is supposed to reflect the care you would put in your work.
Remember: Writing a cover letter is a skill. To learn how to master it, book an appointment for a cover letter critique or tailoring with the Career Centre staff through Career Launch.